Hands-on with the best smartphone you've never heard of: Here's everything new with the OnePlus 6T

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The new OnePlus 6T smartphone was announced by OnePlus on Monday, but I’ve had the device for a few days, so I can tell you about it.

OnePlus had planned to announce the OnePlus 6T on Tuesday, but Apple announced it would hold an event on the same day, leading OnePlus to reschedule to prevent being overshadowed. It must have been a difficult decision for OnePlus, but the company had some big announcements that would have been likely to play second fiddle to Apple’s event had it kept its plans.

Apart from announcing the OnePlus 6T, OnePlus also said its new device would be carried and sold by a US carrier – T-Mobile – for the first time in its history. That’s a major deal for the company, as smartphone popularity in the US is often dictated by availability in carriers’ stores.

That’s not to say OnePlus phones aren’t popular. Though a lot of Americans have most likely never heard of them, for release after release, crowds of people line up outside pop-up stores to buy the newest OnePlus phone. I went to the OnePlus 6 pop-up store a few months ago, and while there was a line down the block, most passersby didn’t know about OnePlus.

The OnePlus 6T is also the first OnePlus phone to be compatible with Verizon, the largest carrier in the US. As usual, it’s also compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile.

The OnePlus 6T will start at $US550 and be available to buy from T-Mobile and from the online OnePlus store on Thursday.

For T-Mobile customers in New York City, the Times Square T-Mobile store will sell the OnePlus 6T three days before its official release, starting at 5 p.m. on Monday.

Check out what’s new with the OnePlus 6T:

It has a new notch with a water-droplet design.

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The OnePlus 6T’s notch is the smallest and most tasteful there is compared with other notched phones like the iPhone XS and the Google Pixel 3 XL.

The screen is among the biggest on any smartphone.

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The OnePlus 6T has a 6.4-inch display, which is on the larger end compared with most smartphones you can buy.

That said, the OnePlus 6T isn’t as large a device overall as other phones with similar or smaller screens. Because of its narrower bezels, the OnePlus 6T is slightly smaller than the Pixel 3 XL, which has a 6.3-inch display.

Compared with previous OnePlus devices, the OnePlus 6T is on the heavier side – a bit of shame, but it could be a result of new features that I’ll get into later.

Underneath the display is a fingerprint sensor — the first of its kind for a smartphone available in the US.

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To accommodate narrower bezels, most smartphone makers moved the fingerprint sensor to the back of the phone, including OnePlus with its previous devices.

The OnePlus 6T is the first smartphone widely available in the US that comes with a fingerprint sensor hidden underneath the display. So far, it’s worked surprisingly well, and there don’t seem to be many compromises compared with a more traditional fingerprint sensor.

The only time the in-display fingerprint sensor posed a problem was in bright, direct sunlight, affecting the way it works. But when the fingerprint sensor faced any issues, I could rely on the extremely quick facial recognition to unlock the phone.

It has a familiar — but sleeker — design.

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The OnePlus 6T’s back is a bit of a throwback to when most phones had fingerprint sensors on the front.

Now that the fingerprint sensor has returned to the front with the OnePlus 6T, the back of the phone no longer has one, making for a sleeker look.

There’s no headphone jack.

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This one will be a little controversial for some people: OnePlus said 59% of its users were already using wireless Bluetooth headphones, so the company decided to remove the headphone jack.

Removing the headphone jack also allowed OnePlus to include the in-display fingerprint scanner, the company’s founder, Pete Lau, told Business Insider in an interview.

For those who like to stay tethered to their favourite pair of wired headphones, a USB-C adaptor is included with the OnePlus 6T.

The OnePlus 6T has a bigger battery than previous models.

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The OnePlus 6T has a 3,700-mAh battery, larger than the 3,300-mAh batteries in its previous devices.

So far, battery life has been impressive.

That larger battery could have something to do with the extra weight in the OnePlus 6T. If that’s the case, it’s worth it.

There are some overall camera improvements and new camera features.

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The OnePlus 6T has a dual-lens camera system, with the primary 16-megapixel lens acting as the main camera and the secondary 20-megapixel lens helping with the depth of field for portrait-mode shots.

While the OnePlus 6T’s hardware is similar to the previous OnePlus 6, the company tuned some of the software for better shots, especially those using high-dynamic range, or HDR.

The OnePlus 6T’s HDR did very well in the photo above by revealing details in darker, shadowy areas on the tree without brightening those areas too much. Low-light performance has also been improved.

There’s also a new “Nightscape” feature for better low-light shots of cityscapes, and a studio-lighting feature designed to provide more even lighting for faces in portrait-mode shots.

The OnePlus 6T will be the first OnePlus phone available to buy from a US carrier (T-Mobile). It’s also the first OnePlus phone to be compatible with Verizon’s network.

With its surprisingly low price tag, the OnePlus 6T is a perfect match for T-Mobile and its customers who enjoy their carrier’s lower fees.

On T-Mobile, the OnePlus 6T with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage will start at $US580, $US30 more than the base phone with 6 GB of RAM if you bought it from OnePlus.

The company will let T-Mobile customers trade in their old devices for a $US300 credit starting Monday at the Times Square store and starting Thursday at stores nationwide and online. That essentially reduces the price of the OnePlus 6T to $US280, or about $US11 a month on a 24-month instalment plan.

Here’s what’s missing in the OnePlus 6T compared with other top Android devices.

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The OnePlus 6T excludes features like wireless charging, an official water-resistance rating, and stereo speakers, things that have generally become standard on most high-end smartphones.

It might seem odd to release a smartphone without these features in 2018, but you have to remember the OnePlus 6T starts at $US550 while other high-end phones start at about $US700.

About the water-resistance specifically: While the OnePlus 6T doesn’t have an official rating, the company said it was confident that the phone could withstand light splashes, like rain.

Apart from the above, the OnePlus 6T shares a lot of specs with the OnePlus 6.

The OnePlus 6T has similar specs as the OnePlus 6, including:

  • The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip.
  • 6 or 8 GB of RAM for smooth performance.
  • Fast charging with OnePlus’ Dash Charging brick, designed to keep all the heat from charging away from the phone. (Overall, less heat in a smartphone is better.)
  • A 1080p display, which still looks great despite sharper resolutions on other high-end smartphones. (The OnePlus 6T has a higher-resolution display than the new iPhone XR.)
  • It’s $US20 more for the base 6 GB RAM model, but you get twice the storage of the OnePlus 6, at 128 GB.
  • The model with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage – the one T-Mobile will sell – is $US580, like the OnePlus 6 with equivalent specs.
  • The model with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage will cost $US630, like the OnePlus 6 with equivalent specs.

Still, while much of the meat might taste the same as the OnePlus 6, the OnePlus 6T certainly has some extra flavour from the new features and updates.

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